Hayley Stone’s MACHINATIONS goes beyond the world building to do what a lot of great science fiction does: explore the question of what it means to be a human.
The machinations refer to the overthrow of the human governments of the world by robots, which is like 98.3% likely to happen for real, so you could look at this as kind of a road-map to the future. The other 1.7% is zombie apocalypse. But that’s not really our point here today. As the book opens, the machinations have already happened, and the society that’s left is living in the aftermath, fighting to survive.
The main characer, Rhona, dies. You’d think that a review wouldn’t lead with a spoiler like that. And you’d be right. She dies at the very start of the book, and it triggers the story. Rhona is a leader of the resistance, and to protect her they’ve created a clone. An exact replica of her, that’s triggered to life upon her death, so that she can carry on the fight.
Except it doesn’t work quite right. Rhona comes back, but she’s not all herself. There are holes in her memories. And that’s where the real story starts.
MACHINATIONS explores what happens when a person looks like herself in almost every way, but there are pieces missing. Whether she’s really her, and what it means to be ‘herself’ at all. It also tackles how losing her affects the people she loves, and how they react when she comes back different. Imagine that for months you thought your lover was dead, only to find out she wasn’t. You’ve grieved, you’ve moved on, you’ve got a war to fight. Now she’s back, at least in body.
It’s a great situation, and the book doesn’t take any short cuts on the answers. There’s no simple solution. It’s complicated and messy and up and down, just like you’d expect it to be in real life. Stone does an excellent job conveying the psychological effects of war, the pressures of leadership, of love lost, and relationships where the two involved feel differently about each other.
Through it all there’s the war with the machines. Stone’s crisp, first-person present tense prose is a good fit for the story. If you’re looking for a terminator style book, full of action and massive battle scenes, this probably isn’t for you. While there’s definitely some of that, and plenty of action, MACHINATIONS is much more about the human dynamics. With that said, the strong writing and the pace of the story make this a fun, quick read.
If I had to put a rating on this book it would probably fall somewhere between PG and PG-13. I’ll give it the 13 rating due to mature themes, but it’s safe for folks who like a pretty clean read.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in return for an honest review.